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Operation C (Game Boy) artwork

Operation C (Game Boy) review


"Contra: Soft Corps"


Operation C (Game Boy) image


A part of me pities the portable Contra installment, Operation C. The game features just enough of the franchise's hallmarks to qualify as a decent entry in the beloved series. Its side-scrolling stages move with impressive ease, allowing the game to maintain a solid pace. Power-ups return from the previous titles, along with familiar foes, easing acclimation for old school players. Konami even utilized sprites similar to those found in the NES titles. And yet, despite possessing the look and feel of a proper Contra title, Operation C is far from memorable.

Its campaign launches you into a misty opening stage, with a grand cityscape looming on the horizon. Individual particles of fog float about the scene, providing impressive atmosphere on hardware mostly known to lack it. Unarmed weaklings jog toward you at arbitrary points. Now and then, you also might run afoul of a slow turret or a machine-gunner who is stingy with his ammo. None of these foes should survive long against nearly any player, including relative newcomers. Heck, even the multi-part submarine that serves as the area boss doesn't pose much of a threat. The dearth of a challenge factor is welcome in this early stage, though, since it grants you enough space to fiddle with the game's mechanics. Acclimation is a snap, but getting used to playing Contra on the Game Boy's minuscule screen might still require a few minutes.

Operation C (Game Boy) imageOperation C (Game Boy) image


Two levels later, you land in a jungle covered in lush foliage. A full rain forest is visible in the background, when your view isn't blocked by a rocky cliff that you must scale. Given the smoldering heat, you might expect Konami to step up its game and start killing players more efficiently. Unfortunately, though, Operation C's third trial merely repeats level one's basic challenges. The difference is that now it also includes a pathetic mid-boss, destructible (and easily dodged) boulders and slightly faster foes. The ordeal finally concludes with a somewhat tough boss encounter whose pattern is child's play. Though it's a reasonably solid stage, it just doesn't leave much of an impression. Where's the thrill? Where's the fast-paced action, the swarms of enemies, the frantic shooting and the close shaves I've come to associate with the Contra brand?

Operation C (Game Boy) imageOperation C (Game Boy) image


But Operation C also makes some unpleasant changes. It offers two top-down segments, a la Commando, both packed with all the action you can handle. The trade-off is that you must say goodbye to the game's more traditional mechanics. Targets are plentiful in these outings, plus the game employs fresh hazards to avoid, not to mention multiple mid-bosses. Alas, your movement speed is inadequate when dealing with these woes, especially during the fourth stage. There, you confront the aliens who creep from the walls and tear their way free of egg sacs. If you've got the flame rifle, most of these critters won't be a problem. Dealing with them using a standard shot, however, is practically suicide. They tend to swarm you and fire projectiles, just to make movement even more frustrating. At the end of the level, your troubles are rewarded with a face-breaking boss encounter against a multi-legged monster, complete with roaming fireballs and a speedy laser that bounces off the walls.

The worst moment, however, comes when you reach a series of bone-like protrusions that thrust outward from the wall during the fourth stage. In particular, there are a few such traps leading up the area boss that are positioned directly across from each other. You can get around one of them easily enough, but thanks to your plodding pace, your chances of sidestepping the second one are slim. If you're lucky, you might lose only a single life during such segments.

Operation C (Game Boy) imageOperation C (Game Boy) image


Operation C manages to redeem itself with a crushing final act, however. You finally feel like you're playing a Contra title, with the correct difficulty setting, and it only took four stages to get there. Imagine the third level, but excise the falling rocks and toss in spider-like aliens reminiscent of the facehuggers from Ridley Scott's and James Cameron's films. There are even a couple of elevator sections where you have to blast marching soldiers and the aforementioned extraterrestrials, all while ducking beneath bolts of electricity. The gauntlet culminates in a super-tough final boss fight that breaks from Contra tradition. As a result, he's ironically one of the more forgettable series antagonists, but the altercation is still worthy and engaging.

I wish I could urge you to track down a copy of Operation C. It's a middling installment to a once magnificent franchise, but it's not without entertaining moments. The game just doesn't compare favorably to most of the rest of the series. It features no standout scenes, no memorable clashes, and it takes too long to finally become the run 'n gun experience it should have been from the start. You won't likely regret playing through Operation C, but you aren't especially likely to remember much about the experience, either.

3/5

JoeTheDestroyer's avatar
Staff review by Joseph Shaffer (May 07, 2016)

Rumor has it that Joe is not actually a man, but a machine that likes video games, horror movies, and long walks on the beach. His/Its first contribution to HonestGamers was a review of Breath of Fire III.

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